It's arts and magic time for our new documentary Revenge of the Electric Car. I don't mean calling in the ILM wizards on Deathly Hallows (which would be cool too). I mean reaching out to potential fans with social networking, before we've even finished post production.
How the world's changed in five years. Who Killed the Electric Car kicked off with Sony Pictures Classics' classic strategy: press launch, website, and newspaper ads in cities that screened the movie. But what was happening behind the scenes fast eclipsed Village Voice ads. Environmental bloggers, student fans (from Caltech to highschoolers in Michigan), hip journalists, and dedicated groups like PlugInAmerica started to spread the word on email and early social media. Thanks to these efforts and the drama behind the electric car itself, our movie found an audience and stayed in the press. That's key for an indie film.
Five years later, we have a new documentary (Spring 2011) and a dramatic new era both for electric cars and movie distribution. It's not a sequel in either case. This time electric cars aren't being killed, they're being mass produced. And social networking isn't a backup strategy, it is a dominant one. Does anyone even watch TV anymore besides 30 Rock and Mad Men? Okay, sure, but indie films aren't buying television spots. Our job (even before a studio is potentially involved) is to find our early fans and rally potential new ones.
Social networking on Revenge of the Electric Car began with a blog when we started shooting. We didn't know when or where our film would end up or even what would happen. But here we are three years later, with the Tesla Roadster, Nissan Leaf and GM Volt taking on gasoline cars and a new dramatic new era for automobiles. So with the new film finishing up we launched our our first campaign to see who's interested.
As of this week, we've found 6000 Facebook 'friends' willing to click the page's "like it" button and suggest the page to others. If we can find 10,000 like this, we'll have our first audience for the trailer. We've had some critics of course -- "What are you waiting for?!" -- but we want to meet our early adopters first. In the new world of indie film, knowing your early fans gives you (and potential distributors) a chance to meet each other.
However this plays out, by the time plug-in cars hit the streets next Spring, we'll have "Revenge of the Electric Car" playing in theaters or streaming to Netflix. Thanks to everyone who's taking the chance on us and the new generation of the automobile.
Follow Chris Paine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrispaine